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Meet Hayley Cain of Hayley and the Crushers

Today we’d like to introduce you to Hayley Cain.

Hayley, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It all started in a Hermosa Beach Apartment, near 2nd Street. I was seven; it was 1994.

One day, I found a CD laying around–it was my mom’s copy of The Go Go’s “Beauty and the Beat.” I remember hearing the guitar first riff off “We Got the Beat” and being hooked immediately on the excitement and the energy of that band. Plus, the girls on the cover looked like they could be my babysitter.

From then on, I always put the Go Go’s on and danced around with a hairbrush. I had always loved the oldies station even at that young age and collected records from the thrift store with my older sister (the only place we were allowed to go was the thrift store a few blocks from our apartment, so we became obsessed with old Barbie’s, clothes, and culture). That’s where I found the Ventures “Walk Don’t Run,” the Supremes, and some real funny ones, like Wayne Newton’s “Danke Shoein,” which I played over and over on the wrong speed (he sounded like a chipmunk).

I was obsessed with Elvis and the 1950s back then and my sister and I would make music videos to our favorite modern-day CD–Weezer’s Blue album. I also wrote obsessively in notebooks to deal with my extremely sensitive nature. I would hide in bushes around the apartment and spy on people, writing everything I could into my top secret Harriet the Spy notebooks. Sometimes I would write poems. I always remember feeling a sense of longing to understand the world and be part of something beyond the concrete of that place. My parents worked a lot.

It would be three years later, after moving more than 200 miles north to a rural property in San Luis Obispo County, that I asked for my first guitar. I am so grateful my parents got me an acoustic and signed me up for lessons. It changed my life and saved my life later down the road. I immediately began writing songs, they flew out of me, as there were no neighbors for miles and it was a trek on my bike to get into “town.” My dad helped set up a crude recording station in my walk-in closet, and I loved feeling like my thoughts and emotions were important enough to record. I still did not share them, though.

Writing was always my outlet, and now, with a guitar, I could put my feelings into the world, even if it was just me that heard them. I wanted to be powerful and colorful like the only female artists I saw on MTV: Madonna, Gwen Stefani. I also knew there was this thing called hard rock, that happened long ago, and I would listen to the radio at night and imagine myself in an arena, like The Rolling Stones back in the days of lore.

Then, in middle school P.E. one day, my friend gave me a CD she had burned from her older brother. It was Operation Ivy’s energy. Then, everything changed. That album came out in the late 80s, but I soon realized that the punk that had started on the west coast had evolved and continued to this very day. I picked up my sister’s forgotten electric guitar (she had moved out) and started learning Black Flag, the Ramones, and Screeching Weasel.

The internet was happening (this was around 98), and I had my own weird blog, where I tested out my punk identity. I learned about bands hanging out on the Lookout Records message board and even met a woman online who not only encouraged my writing, she had gone to school in the Bay Area and had a connection to one of the members of Op Ivy. She said my writing reminded her of a zine her friend used to make. It was Cometbus, the 80s Bay Area punk rock staple. I fell deeply in love with Aaron Cometbus’ world: Bay Area, late 80s punk scene.

Again, I was living and romanticizing the past. But it got me thinking on this rural ranch: Maybe I could be part of punk. My first punk show, I was 14. It was at a lodge hall in the middle of nowhere. The bands were Casualties and TSOL. The moment the pit started I got punched in the face, but it was OK. I felt that energy surging around me and I felt simultaneously lost inside of it but also energized by it.

When my parents split up, and I moved to L.A. with my mom, I was lucky enough to meet a few cool punk rock girls the first day or two of School (Redondo Union). We formed an all-girl band, Ballroom Burlesque, and played the Teen Center and around the South Bay backyard show scene. I always played my guitar way too fast, because I was nervous. I think that nervousness is what took me down a bad path, one of drinking, anxiety, and drugs. At my worst, I was kicked out of the house and going to AA at 16.

I tested out of school and moved out at 17 with my boyfriend and dove into the punk rock culture of the South Bay and surrounding areas like Inglewood, Whittier, and Wilmington. Despite the chaos of my life, I never stopped writing songs. And I never stopped going to community college to pursue my degree in Creative Writing, and later, Journalism. I was pretty lost by the time I was 20; so I packed up and moved back to SLO with a degree in print journalism. That’s where I worked on local newspapers, started my own local music/art zine, and met my future husband and bandmate.

Together, we played in the band Magazine Dirty for about four years. We had the pleasure of opening up for some insane bands that came through SLO, like Adolescents, Agent Orange, Jello Biafra, FLAG, Seven Seconds, Weirdos, and more. It was kinda cool being the only bigger punk band in SLO. I had always identified as a strong feminist, like my parents, but I really saw a lot of sexism while I was in Magazine Dirty. I was often the only woman on stage, and I started to notice how unique my experience was.

I started my blog, four years ago as a response to that feeling that I didn’t quite belong. I wanted other women to know it’s not OK for an audience member or booker to belittle your passion and skill. When Trump was elected, I went a little crazy.

Most women and marginalized folks did, which is why the protests were so inspiring and amazing. Not long after the famed Women’s March, I started a podcast for women artists called Sparkle and Destroy. I recently had my first piece published in BUST Online, an interview with Chicana punk icon Alice Bag of the LA punk band, The Bags.

I’ve been in about half a dozen bands since 2011, but the one I am most proud of is my current project, Hayley and the Crushers, which I call “poolside glitter trash,” but plenty of critics call us “surf punk” or like us to the Go Go’s (which I am pleased with). I write songs about women and my own life, and I credit a lot of inspiration from my old notebooks, which I kept all through high school.

I think I want to give the younger me the voice and stage she craved. We rarely play SLO, but we tour the West Coast every few months, and we have a Mid-West tour coming up this spring. The amount of buzz we have gotten for this band has astounded me (Rodney Bingenheimer of the legendary Rodney on the Roq show has been playing us each Sunday on his Sirius XM channel, we are getting love in Japan, and we get an amazing reception when we play live up in the Pacific Northwest where I guess they are craving some CA sunshine).

Perhaps people are responding to the authenticity I am bringing, and the silliness. I am me on stage. I wear a vintage swimsuit and go-go boots, and I am kind of a spazz. That’s just me. This is the first band I have put my name on (literally), and I am the frontwoman, guitarist, and engine. Reid Cain (Dr. Cain Esquire), my husband and bass player, brings some very cool ideas to the songwriting table, and he does all the graphic design stuff, but the booking, songs, and promo are mostly me. He has enjoyed sitting back a little and just watching me grow. He’s been around longer and has done a lot of the things I really want to do, like tour overseas.

We have had several drummers with this project, but our most recent drummer Gabriel Olivarria has been an insane creative force. He comes from a metal background, and he has a lot of power behind his beats. We released an EP, “Gidget’s Revenge,” and a full-length album, “Jewel Case,” in 2016. Now, our second full length, “Cool/Lame” is coming out on vinyl courtesy of Eccentric Pop records. We have shown in LA supporting the record: 10-19 in Long Beach, 10-20 in LA and 10-21 in LA. It took about two years to make.

We recorded on tape in Oakland with Bart Thurber of House of Faith and I have treated the recordings with more care than any other project to date. The thing that excites me the most is when a young girl will come up to me after a show. It does not matter if it is a small gathering or a larger stage. I can see that energy in her eyes, that sense of recognition that she could be doing what I am doing. That was what I felt when I was seven and heard “This Town,” which we cover on “Jewel Case.”

I believe the greatest act of resistance against the current political climate and sexism as a whole is to be unapologetically yourself. Be yourself, louder. I recently had the chance to work with Girls Rock Camp Santa Barbara, and I know this to be true in my bones. Give a young girl a loud instrument, and I promise you… they will have something to say. The world is finally waking up and listening, but there is still so much to be done.

I just hope that anyone that I might touch with my own experience passes that message of hope and empowerment on to the next person. Yes, you can and should do whatever you’re dreaming of doing. You can be loud and proud. You can be a spazz while you do it, and have fun, too. Why not you? Why not right this very second?

Almost every story has struggles – what were some of the most challenging ones for you?
I have struggled with anxiety, depression, and alcohol abuse. I have struggled with sexism within the music industry and DIY world. I have struggled with not feeling worthy of telling my own story (loudly), which I think a lot of women have dealt with.

I try to keep these issues out in the open, even today, so people can gain perspective and know that no artist is born “fully formed.” No artist just wakes up and walks on stage and kills it. It is a personal battle to get your art into the world. That is the work of an artist. If you are an artist struggling with these issues, my advice is: Get up every day and do your thing. Let it breathe. Come back to it. Sit in acceptance of it.

Move forward, always. Even working on your art ten minutes a day will bring you closer to where you want to be. Oh, and get professional help if you’re really struggling. I am working on a book about my experience in the LA area punk scene as a teenager, and I constantly struggle with moving forward on it. Even the stuff you really want to do can be hard. In fact, I would say the hard stuff is the art worth making. Keep at it.

Tell us about Hayley and the Crushers – what else should we know?
I am known for having the most fun onstage, being the most mouthy feminist, and my band is known for equal parts aggression and sweetness. We bring the party and invite the audience in. We also specialize in eating lots of pizza, making onstage jokes about Huey Lewis and the News and Dr. Reid Cain Esquire are known for his Comic Book Shop, Dr. Cains, located in downtown SLO.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Our new album “Cool/Lame” touches on this. I think it’s easy to pretend you have it all together or that you’ve already made it, especially with social media. Hayley and the Crushers are not those kinds of band, and this resonates with people. We are weirdos. Not only are we super uncool, we aren’t focused on some faraway goal.

We are having fun right now. If you invite us to play your living room, we are going to tear up the couch and leave glitter everywhere. The journey is more fun than the destination, in life and in art. We love being crammed in the van on our way to a show that may or may not explode.

We love writing songs and flinging them into the world, wondering who will listen and who we’ll hear from (if anybody). We have a small tribe, but it is a very loyal and eclectic one. We don’t want to live in the real world. We’d rather live right here in a world of our own making.

This is why you can see us with cardboard sets created by our artist friend Neal Breton. This is why our music videos are so quirky and offbeat. We call this world The Crusherverse.

I think we are successful because we invite people into our world, not the other way around.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Patrick Patton, Jenny Ashley

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